Written By Leslie Koh
After spending a number of years in the media, Leslie finally decided to move from working with bad news to good news. He believes in the power of words (especially when they’re funny). He works as an editor in Our Daily Bread Ministries.
Many years back, a friend told me casually, “God lives by faith.”
At the time, I thought, Now, that makes sense. How clever!
Indeed, it did have a ring of truth to it. And it seemed logical: If I chose to stop believing in God one day, then He would, in a way, stop existing in my life. As far as I was concerned, He would disappear suddenly. Life would go on as usual, albeit without this belief. In fact, I might even ask: What difference would it make? (Hang on, just hear me out here!)
Although I’ve been a Christian for a long time—and brought up as one—I must admit that I have occasionally toyed with the questions: What if Christianity was a lie? What if everything I believed in turned out to be untrue? What if there was really no God or Jesus, and I had been believing in nothing all this time? What would it mean for me? What would I do?
That’s when I started to think about how I would “disprove” my faith. I must stress that I’m not conducting a rigorous, theological internal debate nor trying to figure out whether Christianity is true or not—that’s way too big a question for me! Rather, I’m trying to see whether I could ever convince myself to give up my faith.
In essence, I’m asking myself: How would I know whether I’ve been taken for a ride? What would it take for me to stop believing in Jesus?
First, I would have to prove that Jesus was lying.
Why? Because Jesus had said plainly that he is the only way to God—the truth, the way, and the life—and that anyone who believes in him would have eternal life (John 14:6, 3:16). He didn’t claim to be a great teacher or religious leader, but claimed to be the Son of God, and made it clear that anyone who did not believe in him would perish.
If what Jesus said is true, then I’d be really foolish not to believe it. It would be like ignoring someone who told me not to jump off a building because of this thing called gravity. If I were to decide not to believe in Jesus, then I would need to prove that he was lying, or completely misled. No wonder writer C. S. Lewis famously said that Jesus had to be a liar, a madman, or the Son of God.
That might seem quite easy—we’ll just assume Jesus was bluffing—except for the fact that many of Jesus’ claims and actions were corroborated by numerous witnesses in first-century Palestine, including unbelievers, Jewish leaders, Roman rulers, and some who opposed him. Not only that, his words and actions were so consistent with someone who knew exactly what he was talking about, that his enemies took him seriously—enough to sentence him to death.
In other words, I would need to find an explanation for all the signs and miracles Jesus was reported to have done, and also question the assessment of the witnesses who saw the miracles—including Jesus’ resurrection from death. And I would have to ask why so many people were so convinced by what Jesus said and did that they have been willing to die for their faith. Were they so seriously mistaken? Or was Jesus so convincing that even his enemies took him seriously?
Second, I would have to prove that the Bible is untrue.
Of course, I could try to answer these questions by dismissing the Bible altogether. Then I could dismiss the whole of Christianity, which is based on what the Bible says about Jesus.
However, a lot of what is written in the Bible has been shown to be historically accurate (though some critics would disagree with this). The descriptions of various kings, prominent people, and major events, for example, have been corroborated by non-Christian sources. Of course, I could argue that only some parts of the Bible are reliable or accurate.
I would also need to address the issue of the Bible’s consistent message about Jesus. From Genesis to Revelation, it contains prophecies about Jesus’ arrival and reports of what actually happened thousands of years later, right down the smallest detail like which town he would be born in. Surprisingly, all the prophecies were fulfilled.
Now, that could be easily dismissed as fiction if the Bible was written by one storyteller seeking to convince or confuse readers. But since it is in fact written by some 40 people over a span of more than 1,500 years, it begs the questions: How can all the writers be so united and consistent in their message and descriptions of God? Why aren’t there stark contradictions, as I would expect from many people trying to tell a big lie?
If indeed Christianity were to be a lie, then how did all these writers, made up of people from prophets and kings to fishermen, and spanning hundreds of generations, somehow conspire to produce a consistent story?
Third, I would have to dismiss all my experiences.
Admittedly, I haven’t personally seen a dramatic miracle nor seen visions of Jesus. But I have experienced his presence in my life many times. I have seen specific examples of his provision and blessing in my family and career, which, if Christianity were false, I would have to somehow explain away. I could dismiss some amazing incidents as coincidences, but in some cases, the timing was too good to be mere coincidence.
I would have to discount all the times God has comforted me in my darkest, saddest moments. You might dismiss them as random, warm, fuzzy feelings that came from nowhere. But given that I’m a fairly logical person—not to mention skeptical—that would be hard to accept, even for me. Have I been so greatly deceived or self-deluded? Have I somehow managed to be so logical in all aspects of my life except my faith?
These personal experiences form part of my relationship with Jesus that I would have to ignore, if I were to convince myself that Christianity is untrue. Some people have likened the Christian faith to believing in a friend that others have not seen, and it is true for me. I have heard Jesus’ voice, spoken to Him (and heard His reply), and enjoyed His company and comfort. Would I be able to now pretend that this relationship was a complete figment of my imagination?
I would also have to figure out how people I know could have changed so much (for the better) after becoming Christians. There’s the violent gangster who became a caring pastor, the nasty auntie who became a caring person, and the abrasive friend who became much, much nicer after he turned to Christ. Sure, people can change on their own or turn over a new leaf, but it’s hard to see why they bothered to in the first place, if Jesus was not who he said he was.
…But Christ is just too real.
Some would call Christianity a religion and describe it as a crutch for the weak. Others compare it to a personal belief or way of life that can benefit one’s outlook on life but has no foundation in reality. God, they would say, lives by faith.
But having questioned my own faith, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Christian faith—for me at least—is based on both biblical and personal conviction. I believe what I read in the Bible, rely on what I assess to be truthful, logical, and factual, and at the same time, remember what I have experienced personally. In other words, I believe with both my mind and my heart.
What that means for me is that God does not depend on my belief. He exists whether I choose to follow Him or not. Going back to the example of gravity, I “believe” in gravity because I have seen its effects. And even if I decided to declare that it was a lie one day, it does not change the fact that it exists and it affects me; I would still fall off a building. In the same way, I have seen enough evidence of Jesus’ existence to be convinced that He does not live simply because I believe Him or follow Him.
What if Christianity were to be a lie? Does God live by faith? You could make a case for it, but I don’t think I’ll ever believe it. Jesus is too real for me.
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” —C. S. Lewis
Got more questions about the faith? Head over to YMI Questioning the Faith to explore more questions about Christianity.